Like everyone I knew I was anti-Vietnam War as a kid and teen, and I had a generally negative view of the military as well: repressive, autocratic, dangerous tool of the man.
Like most, I have come to recognize the problem was not the military, but the politicians who tested theories and power games out on the world via a conscripted force that was not united in its desire to be there.
I now view the American military with awe and admiration:
- It is as difficult to provoke the United States as it is to survive its eventual and tardy response. We will take months, years, even decades of slurs, random murdering of our own, terrorism, and general hostility before acting – and then in some primordial rage at last unleash firepower undreamed of to remove the odious regime.
….Our military no longer is just a fighting force per se, but is asked to preserve oil fields, clear waterways, organize oppressed peoples like the Kurds, feed those without food and water, and under fire distinguish killers from innocents. It is hard to fight a force that employs everything from dolphins to satellites. When it clears Iraq of Saddam Hussein, it will have been done more to feed and help the Iraqi people than all the efforts of the U.N. of the last two decades.
When war actually starts, the efficacy and professionalism of the American military tend to silence rather than incite its critics, as the example of brave soldiers seeking to free Iraq makes a sorry contrast with “Not in Our Name,” ANSWER, and the assorted likes of Peter Arnett, Hans Blix, and Dominque de Villepin. Americans always prefer to see brave young men fighting for ideals than pampered critics for a few minutes vomiting in public in San Francisco or staging die-ins on the pavement in Washington – before driving home to resume their comfortable lives only made possible by those sleeping now in the sands of Iraq. [National Review]
We have only to compare the comportment, values, discipline and priorities of the American military in the current conflict with those of the enemy to sharpen our appreciation.
Jim McDonough describes the current situation:
- As technology advances, the conditions of warfare change, but the essential elements of combat power remain timeless, no different today than when the Greeks and Romans marched through the Tigris and Euphrates valleys. Simply put, combat power is the sum total of the ability to move relative to the enemy, to hit him and to protect yourself from his attempts to hit back — or, in military parlance, to maneuver, to apply firepower and to defend yourself while doing so.
In each of these areas coalition forces are dominant, particularly at the operational level of war. Within days we are at the gates of Baghdad in force, with more coming on hour by hour. We have had complete control of the air from the outset, can strike freely from ground and air, are moving up Iraqi waterways and roaming widely over the majority of Iraqi territory. We can pinpoint our targets and strike with unerring accuracy at the level of devastation we choose to inflict.
The enemy for its part can move only at great risk and is compelled to seek cover among the population or to await extreme weather conditions to foray out, and then only at the smallest tactical levels. The enemy’s ability to strike has been relatively impotent, reduced to small arms and explosives from terrorist groups or to venting frustration in barbaric war crimes against prisoners and atrocities against fellow Iraqis. While chemical and biological weapons use may remain an option, their operational effectiveness remains uncertain, while their political consequences for the Iraqi regime’s cause would be devastating. Iraqi protection is completely passive. Only in bunkers buried deep and sheltered by innocent civilians placed in proximity can enemy forces hope to stave off destruction. [Wahsington Post]
And then there’s this nice little rescue:
- U.S. special forces rescued a female U.S. Army soldier held captive for 10 days and recovered the bodies of two other soldiers in a midnight raid on an Iraqi hospital, officials said on Wednesday.
The rescued soldier was identified as Private First Class Jessica Lynch, 19, from Palestine, West Virginia. She was with a maintenance convoy ambushed by Iraqi forces on March 23.
Captain Jay La Rossa, spokesman for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said Lynch had two broken legs and one broken arm, but was stable and in good condition.
….U.S. defense officials in Washington gave no details on how exactly U.S. forces learned of Lynch’s whereabouts, but said tips from local citizens were often helpful in such situations.
“It’s important to get good intelligence and then be able to act in a timely manner,” said the official. “This was a great success.”
Military sources near Nassiriya said U.S. Marines staged a decoy attack to allow special forces to rescue Lynch from the hospital in the southern city where U.S.-led forces have faced stiff resistance from Iraqi fighters.
“U.S. Marines sent a large force led by tanks and armored personnel carriers to hit targets in the center of the city and to seize a key bridge over the Euphrates while the hospital raid was under way,” a military source said. [Reuters]
And more good news:
- American forces, which crossed the Tigris River in the drive toward the Iraqi capital, destroyed the Baghdad Division of Iraq’s Republican Guard, the U.S. Central Command said Wednesday.
….He said U.S. forces seized the strategic town of Kut and routed the Republican Guard division force that had been guarding the highway leading to Baghdad.
“The Baghdad Division has been destroyed,” Brooks said.
He said that two other Republican Guard divisions had been engaged around the city of Karbala and that coalition forces had seized control of a dam on Lake al-Milh. Some analysts had feared the Iraqis would try to destroy the dam and trap U.S. forces with the resulting flood. [AP]
And more on the rescue:
- Brooks showed video of U.S. troops carrying wounded Pfc. Jessica Lynch on a stretcher from a helicopter to a plane after she was rescued in a daring raid at a hospital in the south-central Iraqi town of Nasiriyah. She had been held as a prisoner of war since her unit was attacked by Iraqis on March 23.
The grainy, green-tinted video taken with night-vision lenses showed her to be alert as she lay on the stretcher. A still photograph of her showed a folded American flag resting on her as she smiled and looked at the camera.
“Some brave souls put their lives on the line to carry this out,” Brooks said.
….The rescue force fought its way into and out of the hospital with Iraqis firing on them from nearby buildings, he said. She was held by paramilitary troops who dress in civilian clothes.
Troops found munitions, mortars, maps and a terrain model in the hospital, indicating it was used as a military command center.
Participating in the raid were Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, Air Force pilots and U.S. Marines, he said.
In Najaf, about 50 miles south of Karbala, the Central Command said U.S. forces were being fired on from the Ali Mosque, one of the most important Shiite Muslim sites.
U.S. commanders are trying to prevent damage to religious sites to avoid angering Muslims in Iraq and abroad.
He said coalition forces “were disciplined … and chose not to return fire against this mosque to keep it protected.”
Brooks described the takeover of the mosque by Iraqi troops as “a detestable example of putting historical sites in danger.”
Damn, those Iraqis are noble.
We win militarily, morally, spiritually – and we will win politically.